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Workplace Health Assessments

EMPLOYEES MAY NO LONGER BE OBLIGATED TO UNDERGO A WORKPLACE HEALTH ASSESSMENT

Have you asked your employees to undergo a compulsory workplace health assessment?

If your answer is yes to the question above, then you need to be aware of a decision made by the Fair Work Commission.

As businesses increasingly face rising costs and competition, many employers have implemented comprehensive workplace health programs as a strategy for assessing employee health and productivity and, in turn, increasing their business’ profitability.

These workplace health programs have included employers directing their workers to undergo compulsory health assessments to assess functional capacity, physical ability and identify practical measures to reduce risks.

In the case of TWU v Cement Australia Pty Ltd [2015] FWC 158, Cement Australia introduced a compulsory risk review program for its employees as a response to the frequency of injuries reported in the workplace. The 45 minute assessment was to be carried out bi-yearly and the results were to go on the employees’ health file with suggestions of programs the employees could join to benefit their health. Cement Australia also enforced that if an employee refused to participate in a health assessment they could be subject to disciplinary action.

However, TWU (the union) disputed the company’s right to have its employees participate in these compulsory assessments and argued that there were privacy concerns about the storing of medical information. Further, that there was insufficient evidence to suggest a genuine need to direct its employees to undertake assessment.

The Fair Work Commission ruled that it was unreasonable for an employer to direct workers to attend compulsory health assessments.

In light of the above case, employers can no longer direct an employee to undertake a medical assessment unless it has a particular concern that the employee is unable to perform the inherent requirements of its jobW. Whilst workplace health and safety is of huge importance in the workplace, the Fair Work Commission found that it was not lawful to invade the personal life of your employees.

For further information on workplace health assessments or advice on your employment matters contact our Workplace & Employment Law Team at Watkins Tapsell.